Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Trio for Clarinet, Piano and Cello in A minor Op.114 (1891) [23:38]
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in F minor Op.120 No.1 (1894) [23:24]
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in E flat Op.120 No.2 (1894) [22:34]
Arthur Campbell (clarinet), Frances
Renzi (piano, sonatas), Jean-Pascal Meyer
(piano, trio), Daniel Raclot (cello)
rec. 7-10 November 2005, Siemens Villa, Berlin. AUDITE 92554 [69:39]
This hybrid SACD brings together three of the four masterpieces
Brahms wrote for Richard Mühfeld, the self-taught virtuoso clarinettist
who inspired the composer to come out of compositional retirement. The
missing piece, the gorgeous Clarinet Quintet Op.114, is frequently
coupled with the Clarinet Trio, its immediate predecessor
in Brahms oeuvre. Here it is replaced with the two sonatas
for clarinet and piano which date from three years later.
American clarinettist Arthur Campbell turns in polished performances
of the sonatas, with Frances Renzi a sympathetic associate
artist. Their accounts emphasise the dreamy beauty of Brahms'
writing, and Campbell's variation of tone is quite beguiling
in and of itself. The performance of the first sonata is
perhaps more successful. Here Campbell and Renzi find more
ardour in the first movement than they manage to project
in the second movement of the second sonata, both of which
are marked "allegro appassionato". They also turn
in a lovingly detailed accounts of the first sonata's allegretto
grazioso third movement and dancing vivace finale.
For the trio Campbell is joined by a pair of French musicians,
both of whom raise the intensity somewhat without erasing
lyricism of Brahms' conception. Together the three musicians
deliver a fine performance of this piece. The beauty of
Campbell's tone is compromised a little in the upper extremes
of his register in the first movement, but elsewhere it remains
warm and mellifluous. My only serious reservation here concerns
the balancing of the sound, which favours the piano and clarinet
but obscures Raclot's cello. Perhaps this problem is unique
to the CD stereo layer of the disc, and is not repeated in
the SACD layers, which I have not heard. Certainly the sound
is otherwise excellent, closely recorded perhaps but lacking
nothing in warmth.
The booklet notes, in both German and English, are helpful, even if
the picture of Brahms selected to adorn Michael Struck-Schloen's
essay depicts the composer in his youth rather than the gentleman
of late middle age who penned these works.
If you prize the autumnal beauty of these pieces above their latent
passion, these accounts will give you pleasure.
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